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Individuals with A, AB, or B blood types may have a higher risk of developing pancreatic cancer, according to the results of a study published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.[1]

The pancreas is an organ that is surrounded by the stomach, small intestine, bile ducts (tubes that connect the liver to the small intestine), gallbladder, liver, and spleen. The pancreas helps the body to break down food and also produces hormones, such as insulin, to regulate the body’s storage and use of food.

Pancreatic cancer has one of the highest mortality rates of all cancers. It accounts for approximately 2% of all newly diagnosed cancers in the United States each year but 5% of all cancer deaths. Pancreatic cancer is often called a “silent killer” because its symptoms are usually not recognizable until it has advanced and spread outside the pancreas. As a result, the majority of pancreatic cancers are not diagnosed until they have reached advanced stages and are considered incurable. Research is ongoing to identify risk factors and genetic predisposition for this disease in the hopes of ensuring earlier diagnosis and higher cure rates.

In the current study, researchers evaluated data from 107,503 subjects from two large, prospective cohort studies: The Nurses’ Health Study (initiated in 1976) and the Health Professionals Follow-up Study (initiated in 1986). They found that the risk of pancreatic was lowest among individuals with blood type O. Compared with individuals with blood type O, those with blood type A have a 32% higher risk of developing pancreatic cancer, those with type AB have a 51% higher risk, and those with type B have a 72% higher risk.

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With further research the association between blood type and the risk of pancreatic cancer may provide insight into the development of this deadly disease. The researchers concluded, “In two, large, independent populations, ABO blood type was statistically significantly associated with the risk of pancreatic cancer. Further studies are necessary to define the mechanisms by which ABO blood type or closely linked genetic variants may influence pancreatic cancer risk.”


[1] Wolpin BM, Chan AT, Hartge P, et al. ABO blood group and the risk of pancreatic cancer. Journal of the National Cancer Institute. 2009; 101:424-431.